Making the DIY conference badges

By: Maria Matveeva
Badges

What are badges for, anyway? At any professional event with more than fifteen people, we wear some sort of name tag.

The current situation with badges:

If it’s a smaller or low budget event, you get a shipping label and write your name with a sharpie, then stick to your shirt and hope it holds. (I always stick mine to a pant leg just because.)

A step up would be vinyl stickers or shipping labels with something like the conference name printed on them, but again attendees must write their name.

At the highest level of badge, you arrive an event and receive a fully branded badge on a colorful lanyard with your name and photo printed on both sides, to prevent you from lending your $800 conference pass to a friend.

Three things badges do best:

  1. Prove that you’ve paid for your ticket
  2. Help brand the event
  3. Help you meet people

Our focus for the badges was mostly to help people meet and talk, and if we get to show off the Wicked Good Conferences brand - that’s cool too. We did not rely on the badges for ticketing because the event is relatively small, and held in a single location. There were no repeated check-ins at the door or strangers walking in off the relatively low traffic street.

This allowed me the freedom to experiment with the badges. The only restriction was the budget; we wanted to make about 200 customizable name badges with a budget range of $20–$50. This is not a realistic budget for high quality “professionally” printed badges (decent custom lanyards alone are at least $1 each).

No printed names

We decided to skip printing people’s names altogether, and ask them to write names instead. This also allowed people to put a twitter handle and other useful information on the badges, and be funny with them. I am an introvert, so I appreciate any excuse to start a conversation. Stickers, twitter handles and stick figures on badges helped make interaction easier.

Badges

No printed lanyards

Custom printed lanyards, in the quality we wanted, were way above our budget. Instead, we tried a few DIY ideas: string, ribbon, rope and strips of jersey fabric. The fabric turned out to be the most comfortable to wear. Knit jersey (“tee-shirt”) fabric will roll into a soft string if you cut 1” wide strips and stretch them out. We used about 2.5 yards of 52” wide fabric to make the 200 strips. We could make the strips a half to a third of the width of the fabric, depending on how long we wanted the strips to be.

Supplies

An added benefit of using fabric is a much better selection of colors compared to lanyards. We managed to get a near-perfect match to our attendee shirts!

Matched colors

Actually, no printed anything

To make a color impression at a low cost we used a rubber stamp with a purple ink pad. We did not commit to placing any sponsor logos on the badges, so I had complete freedom with this design. We ordered a rubber stamp of the Wicked Good Conferences logo by itself so we can reuse it for the next conferences. To make the badge itself, we stamped and punched a hole in standard 3×5” index cards.

Stamping... Stamped!

Budget breakdown

  • 1×2” Custom rubber stamp”: $12 + shipping
  • Purple ink pad: $3.50
  • Index cards, 2 packs of 100: ~$7
  • Single hole punch: ~$5
  • Jersey fabric (we already had it, but if you need to buy it cost about $5/yard): free or $15

Lessons learned

The badges felt about right for the event, not too formal, not too shabby. Some lanyards turned out a bit short, but people were creative with placement, wearing them not only around the neck but on a sleeve, on the hat, tying them to the belt loop or a shirt button, and even wearing as a soft choker. Next time around we can also experiment with other paper types and have the paper cut to size, to allow for a sturdier badge in a wider range of colors.

Were you at WGE? Let us know what you thought of the DIY badges!